April 14, 2013
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” -Alan Cohen
Today I picked my first ‘five to release’ and ‘three to keep’ in my 30-day Challenge. Oddly enough, I discovered that picking the five to release was easier than choosing the three to keep.
The Five Releases:
1. An old black purse from Target that I’d kept so I’d have a decent-looking black bag for ‘nice’ occasions. But I never go to ‘nice’ occasions anymore, and I have my tan Mandarin Duck bag that’s nice enough if I ever do.
2. A box that someone gave me to store/organize jewelry supplies. It was originally a chocolate-covered date box from Abu Dhabi. The idea’s nice but it’s cardboard so not really sturdy enough.
3. A book called The Spirit of Prophecy from the Land of Assisi Refuge and Salvation by Massimo Coppo. A friend met this pilgrim man who was traveling through Assisi and selling this self-published book; to be nice he bought a copy, but since my Italian friend doesn’t read English very well, he gave it to me. At first I was excited by the gift, hoping it would have some profound truths, or at least some crazy ravings. But it’s not very interesting. Here’s an excerpt, picked at random:
“Well, this is what Marcello later wrote about his retreat, in a note for which some priests had pressed him, and which he first of all submitted to his confessor (who wanted it to be given the title: Fragments of a prophetic story which the Lord is accomplishing inthe land of Assisi”): “On the 15th August 1981, the feast of the Assumption, I withdrew myself for forty days, as it were into the desert, in the former barn of a farmhouse at Rocca Sant’Angelo… I wanted to imitate Jesus, Moses and St. Francis.”
4. A book called Un Indovino Mi Disse (A Fortune Teller Told Me) by Tiziano Terzani. This book sounds much more interesting. I found it in a book swap box by Santa Chiara church in the Bosco di San Francesco (St. Francis’ Woods).
“Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for an entire year, Tiziano Terzani—a vastly experienced Asia correspondent—took what he called “the first step into an unknown world. . . . It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years I have ever spent: I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn.”
However, I’ve had the book since November, and though I can read Italian, it takes a bit of effort, and if I haven’t read it yet I probably won’t. So I’m going to pass it on.
5. My very favorite very comfortable pair of Teva flip flops that I absolutely love. I think I’ve had these for five years (maybe more), and though there’s an ever-growing hole in the bottom of one of them, I still kinda want to keep them, just so I have a pair of flip flops for around the house. But I’ve decided to toss them and make room for a new pair – otherwise I never really think I NEED a new pair, as I’ve still got these disintegrating ones hanging out.
The three things I love that I’m choosing to keep:
1. A journal my friend Kalyani gave me for my birthday last month.
2. A compass and hematite necklace that I made.
3. A golden Ganesh and citrine necklace that I also made.
The keepers were harder to choose than the letting go-ofs because I really only want to keep things that I LOVE. And I realized while looking around that I have a lot of items that I’m ambivalent about.
Though I’m already having doubts about what I’m releasing – What if I need a black purse? (answer: I can borrow one from someone). What if I can’t find comfortable flip flops so far from REI? (answer: I’ll be fine even if I don’t own flip flops right now). What if it turns out I do want to read ‘Un indovino mi disse’? (answer: I can get it in English via Kindle).
I opened to a random passage in another book that I’m keeping for the moment. Here’s some poignant wisdom from Paramahansa Yogananda:
“It is rare to see a truly “free” man. Most people think they aer free, while their minds are utterly fettered by psychological chains. These are harder to get rid of than ordinary chains; for in their subtlety they are difficult even to recognize, not to speak of how to destroy them! It requires a great deal of knowledge to cut those psychological restraints.”
- from Journey to Self-Realization
I’m very aware of my self-imposed limits to how free I am. I’ve freed myself from a lot these past two years, but it’s a continual process of letting go. I feel that this challenge will give me a final solid push through the paper chains of my fears. At least, I hope so!
April 13, 2013
Just in case you don’t already know this, Satan exists.
And its current name is Monsanto.
I’m now in a place (emotionally and spiritually) where I can hear/read about Monsanto without having a nervous breakdown (as I did in January 2011, though I probably didn’t mention it to you as it was a small one).
Why am I talking about this depressing topic? Well, the ElephantJournal article “Monsanto: The Most Evil Company in the Universe” showed up in my twitter feed today.
And you know what? I was ready. I was ready to face it. I feel strong enough in myself at this moment that I knew I wouldn’t start crying or get utterly depressed. I was ready to shift on this topic.
Though I’ve tried to avoid it the past year or two, I was actually thinking about Monsanto around the time of my birthday last month. I am doing Creative Life Coaching sessions with Lakshmi (she’s amazing) and she mentioned that the topics that upset us most can show us where our passions lie, and hence the direction to move in in our lives – our purpose for being here on the planet on this go-’round.
I wrote the word “Monsanto” in my notes; at the end of our session I copy/pasted/Skyped my responses to her questions and exercises and sent them back to her.
Lakshmi lives in Portugal; much of Portugal is GMO-Free, and Lakshmi hadn’t heard of the corporation Monsanto.
So when she saw the word she thought I was talking about the Portuguese town of Monsanto – which I, on the other hand, had never heard of, but had seen a photo of once.
Here’s some crazy synchronicity:
This town Monsanto in Portugal is pretty much THE COOLEST PLACE I HAVE EVER SEEN.
IT’S BUILD INTO/WITH BOULDERS!
You don’t even understand. Aside from living in a tree house (see my post on how I Want To Live In a Tree Boat House – yes I made it up), living in boulders is pretty much my wet dream. I’ve loved rocks since I can remember, I grew up bouldering in Southern California, and I have spent hours clamoring over and sprawled across boulders. I don’t really understand why, but I love boulders big time.
So when I saw how this heavy word, THE most upsetting word in the human language (for me anyways) could be shifted in an instant to something so unbelievably cool that I hadn’t even known had existed -
This gave me hope.
Hope that I could overcome the rage/fury/terror that would come up when I heard or saw the word Monsanto.
Because now I know a secret. That yes, Monsanto is a horrible evil life-threatening monster that is overrunning the globe and polluting nature with man’s hubristic fiddling (and the results of man’s hubristic fiddlings are never good; the Greeks knew that).
But now I know that when I think of Monsanto the horror, I can ALSO think of Monsanto the Magical. Monsanto the Magical Boulder Town, which I will someday visit, I sweartogod, if not possibly live.
Anyways, what do we do when faced with the satanic behemoth monster that is called Monsanto, the one that helped make the nuclear bomb and agent orange and DMT and bovine growth hormone?
Here’s what we do:
1. We educate ourselves as to what vendors sell/products are made using Genetically Modified Organisms and we consciously choose to stop “feeding” them with our money energy (I’m sorry to tell you that Whole Foods surrendered to Monsanto back in 2011, hence my breakdown).
2. We learn to grow our own food.
3. We create local and independent seed banks to protect and share naturally-occurring heirloom seeds.
4. And we enjoy the f#@% out of our delicious, local, organic food.
And then, we all go visit Portugal.
November 20, 2012
I’m still here.
Planet Earth > Europe > Italy > Umbria > Assisi > Nocera Umbra > Ananda.
I’m in Ananda’s “library” with artist Mavis Muller. Mavis traveled from Alaska to Spain to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of an oil spill that happened in Galicia. She wove a basket sculpture in the form of a fractured heart, which was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vigo. The public was invited to begin to tie the heart back together with rainbow-colored ribbons, and the plan was to release the basket by burning it. But the museum was unable to secure a permit from the fire department to burn a sculpture on the streets of downtown Vigo. So, the fractured heart sculpture is being shipped here to Italy. On 12/12/12, we will have a community ceremony to burn the sculpture after Ananda community members have had the opportunity to add their own white ribbons!
The leaves have been turning here in Umbria the last few weeks. I’m loving the blazing colors, the brisk cold fresh fresh air, the smell of firewood burning.
This is my second autumn with the actual seasonal evidence (sorely lacking in Los Angeles), and I love it.
The day after tomorrow will be my second Thanksgiving abroad.
Last year I was in Argentina, and had a big fat steak with an Australian friend (click here for the blog and here for photos of the meal).
This year I will be having a vegetarian Thanksgiving in Italy at an Ashram with Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French, British, Croatian, Swiss, German, Canadian and American friends.
I love my life.
October 13, 2012
while I was e-stalking my hero, Bronwen. This woman has a kick-ass website, great photos, makes beautiful and durable jewelry, travels like mad, rock climbs, yogas, sails, and writes beautiful blogs about it… Basically, I want to be her when I grow up. A me version of her, of course.
AND she’s got great taste in poetry – she had The Invitation on her site.
I read the book The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer during my work breaks back in my Anthropologie days. Beautiful soul truth:
THE INVITATION – ORIAH MOUNTAIN DREAMER
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love, for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own, without moving to hide it
or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own.
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy
fill you to the tips of your fingers
and toes without cautioning us
to be careful, be realistic,
remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,“Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live,
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what
or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
and if you truly like the company
you keep in the empty moments.
September 25, 2012
Today I did something I’ve been wanting to do for 12 years.
I climbed to the top of the Cupola, the dome of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. 463 steps up.
For once in my life, I have no photos. I somehow forgot my camera at the Academy in Assisi, so the Radiohead concert, this week in Florence, and the Duomo climb are undocumented. Most of you know that I loooove to take photos, but it’s been a refreshing change to just be totally present for life instead of looking at everything through a 3″ screen. The world is more holistic.
I arrived at the Duomo at 8:15am in order to avoid the crowds. I took the bus from my couchsurfing host Dario’s house, using a trick he showed me – I bought a bus ticket with my cell phone. With my cell phone!!! What you do is send a text with the letters “ataf” to 4880105. It texts you a ticket and charges 1.20 Euros to your phone. The virtual bus ticket is good for 90 minutes.
I love technology.
There is no technology at the Cupola. No new technology anyways. Ie, no elevators.
The entrance to climb the Cupola is on the left side of the cathedral when you’re facing the front, and it costs 8 Euros. There was a group of about 20 dewy-faced German girls in front of me, and a Taiwanese woman wearing heels. She exclaimed over my Vibram Fivefinger barefoot shoes, as did a few other people I met during the climb. They all agreed that my footwear was the most suitable for the occasion.
We all huffed and puffed and worked up a sweat – I consider myself to be in fairly good shape but this was a workout. Not recommended for claustrophobics. It was fascinating being inside the sides of the dome itself – you could see the walls curving overhead within arm’s reach overhead – and there are walkways that ring in interior of the dome so you can check out the details of the frescos of naked people getting their skin flayed open and being strangled by pitchfork-wielding devils and demons. There are also depictions of heaven and cherubs and god and all that, but the hell scenes are much more fun.
Construction on the dome was started in 1420 and completed in 1434, making the Cupola 578 years old. FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY EIGHT YEARS OLD!!! The Duomo (the whole cathedral) is even older, started in 1296. From the pavement to the top of the dome is almost 300 feet, about a 30 story building (no wonder we were huffing and puffing).
It wasn’t as windy as I expected at the top. The sun was still low in the east and there were few clouds in the sky. The giant shadow of the Cupola stretched west across Firenze, and I felt a bit bad for the people who lived in its shadow and probably don’t get any direct light until almost midday.
Chaotic harmony is what Firenze looks like from above. The colors are uniform – warm golds and yellows, umber and sienna and terra cotta. But the architecture is chaos. Hundreds – thousands? – of years of building on top of buildings, chopping down neighboring towers, adding on rooms and passageways. Done with skill and a strong aesthetic, but still chaotic.
I spent a long time up there, longer than the German girls or the Taiwanese woman in heels. I wasn’t taking photos, obviously, as I was without camera. I just absorbed it. I tuned into the presence of the city. I identified all the buildings I knew, and picked out the general area of the apartments I’d lived in on Via San Zanobi in 2000 and 2001. I stared at the towers on the hillsides I remember staring at and sketching in art class so many years ago. I watched the early sunlight reflecting like shining liquid silver off the Arno river. At one point my eyes filled with tears at a wave of joy and gratitude that surged within – the joy of being in Italy, the joy of this wonderful life. High up above in the center of it all, I felt love. I’ve loved Florence since I set foot in it in 1997, at age 18, and its consistent reliability, its beautiful lack of change, is reassuring, intimately familiar, calming.
And then the bells began to ring, all around me, from Santa Croce Basilica, from San Lorenzo. 9am. They rang as they have for hundreds – thousands – of years, as they will for hundreds – thousands – of years more.
September 7, 2012
I think I should do another Blog-a-Day Challenge. I am entirely out of the habit of blogging, and I need something to get me over the resistance/fear that accompanies creating. Plus there’s been so much amazingness going on in my life these past few months, I feel guilty not sharing!!! (I’ve ditched most of my general guilt, but I still haven’t managed to completely shake the blogging guilt…)
So I’ll do a blog-a-day starting today and going through September 20th, when I leave my home of the last month and a half for a trip to Florence and the Ligurian coast.
For the last three weeks I’ve been renting a room with two lovely roommates about 5 kilometeres from the Ananda center here in Italy. We’re an international bunch, me being from the states, one roommie, Calypso, hailing from Greece, and the other, Luigi, an Italian native (obviously… Luigi). A Portuguese woman named Lakshmi normally occupies the three-room apartment; she’d been house-sitting but is moving back in next week.
After a year and two months of Nomad Living, the thought of committing to stay anywhere for more than a month at a time brings up some issues for me. Though I don’t want to keep traveling forever, and I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling, I haven’t entirely shaken the itch to keep moving. But life here at Ananda is pretty close to my dream life. I’ve got a community and group of close friends who already feel like family. Everybody meditates and does yoga. The community is working towards self-sufficiency, and I’m helping to launch the Academy of Art, Creativity, and Consciousness. I’m speaking Italian every day. The air is fresh. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. My house is in the countryside overlooking olive groves, and our neighbors make home-pressed olive oil from their orchards, which we can see from our bathroom window.
For now, I’m happy here. Very happy! Yet at the same time, not entirely sure I’m ready to commit to staying… I feel I still need to be following my bliss and inspiration, and I don’t want to confuse myself and my path by making commitments to other people and becoming entangled in their plans… So, I’m sorting through some things, figuring out which is the voice of fear and which is the voice of my soul.
August 18, 2012
I’ve been here at Ananda for a month, and it’s flown by. It’s beautiful here, and I’ve been meeting new people every day. Most of them thought they knew me or had met me before, that odd sense of familiarity – what is that? Is it the knowing of a prior lifetime? A soul recognition, a soul resonance? Is it a product of my Irish/English face, the genes that have spread around the globe? Is it merely my love for people in general, my work at being open that causes them to feel that we are closer than strangers normally are, that I accept them like an old friend would?
My days at Ananda usually begin around 5:30am. Recharging exercises (a series of breathing and muscle tensing exercises), kriya yoga, and meditation at 6am or a shorter one at 7am, in the temple or the yoga hall. Breakfast served at 8:45am – homemade yogurt, fresh baked bread, honey, oatmeal, cream of rice, corn flakes, fruit, coffee, tea… and, occasionally, unfortunately, Nutella. I cannot NOT eat Nutella if it’s within eyesight.
While here at Ananda I participated in the ‘Yoga in Action’ and ‘Service is Joy’ programs, so for a discount on room and board I volunteered around 20 to 30 hours per week, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming the large dining room, cleaning bathrooms. We were given a few tips on working joyfully that were actually quite effective, so I almost always enjoyed the work – I even learned to scrub toilets without minding. This for me was quite interesting. I feel like I didn’t really learn to clean the house growing up – searching my memory banks (which are fairly sparse on childhood memories), washing dishes, cleaning windows, washing the car and taking out the trash were some of the chores I remembered doing. I don’t remember ever actually cleaning the house or bathrooms, so I think for those reasons they were always chores I’d avoided after growing up. Through this work at Ananda I learned (and practiced) cleaning efficiently, without negative feelings or resistance. The daunting concept of cleaning has become more manageable.
Sometimes in the morning we would have Sadhana meetings with Tony and Namasia, the two directors of ‘the Service is Joy’ programs, during which we would meditate and discuss spiritual readings and topics – part education, part therapy. During ‘Yoga is Action’ we were allowed to take one of the courses offered at the center – I did “How to Live With More Energy” and the incredible art workshop with Dana Lynn Anderson “Painting from the Heart and Soul”.
Lunch is served at Ananda at 1:30pm. Vegetarian/vegan, always a salad bar and fruit and steamed veggies and rice and then the day’s offering – gorgonzola pasta or stuffed zucchini or a lentil dish. I’ve been eating entirely too much as I always want to try everything, and the fresh bread is so good.
Afternoons are more work or class, yoga and meditation around 5:45pm, dinner served at 7:30pm. Most evenings there’s something to do after dinner – kirtan music and dancing, a talk about art or community, a concert by the resident cellist or a visiting violinist.
There are about 150 people who live here in the Ananda Community, and anywhere from 30-100 guests who stay at the retreat center. So there are always people around to chat with and new people to meet.
Everything is in Italian and English, which I absolutely love. I’ve gotten to translate a few times – in a yoga class, in a meeting. It’s a skill I’ll have to practice more – it’s challenging to be talking at the same time someone else is an trying to keep up – but I enjoy it.
Sunsets here are amazing. In 30 days I think I only saw one sunset that wasn’t spectacularly vibrant reds and oranges. And the views are 100% Italian – rolling hills, patchworks of fields, green trees, stone houses.